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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

    I have read a few books about the frightening authoritarian regime of North Korea. I particularly loved this true story of one young girls decision to escape and the harrowing details her escape entailed. Here is my book review The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee.

    Described as ruthless and secretive, the dictatorship of North Korea tries to make both the outside world and it’s own citizens believe it is a powerful utopian society. But it is far from it. The brutal regime creates a world where it’s citizens starve or work themselves to death. A life where illegal activity is a norm just to feed your family. A secretive and terrifying life where citizens just disappear never to be seen again.

    At age seventeen Hyeonseo decides to leave her mother and brother and cross the river to China. Her first thought is she would go just for a few days and then cross back. But it will be twelve years before she sees her family again.

    Through it all she lives a secretive life trying to avoid extradition and starvation. Eventually she meets a man who she is initially afraid to be honest with. But he is encouraging to her and she finally decides to leave China and make her way to South Korea and claim asylum.

    Eventually she will undertake a harrowing journey to save her mother and brother. It is all a miracle really, and something few people would attempt.

    Well written and easy to read, I enjoyed this story of this brave girl. I think you will too. Thank you for reading my book review The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee.

    ****Four stars for The Girl with Seven Names: Escape from North Korea by Hyeonseo Lee

    See last week book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

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    Inspire

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Celebrate Valentines with a Sunset and your Honey

    Most Romantic Sunsets Around the World

    Today I share a blog from the past as I am still in transit.  Next week we will have a new blog about our travels to Guernsey and Jersey.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Malpais Costa Rica

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Guam

    For the past two weeks, the nightly show the sun has put on here in Malpais has been nothing less than astounding. Each evening we watch breathless as it dips into the blue

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hawks Bay New Zealand

    ocean dressed in a beautiful pink and orange gown.  Some nights the show actually gets better after sunset – as the sky extends the celebration with a spectacular rainbow of hues of pink, purple, orange, yellow and indigo across the western sky.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    AntiParos Greece

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Huraa Maldives

    Watching the sun each night from Malpais Costa Rica has been a glorious part of our day.  A reminder each evening of how lucky

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Hikkaduwa Sri Lanka

    we are.  A romantic interlude of breathtaking beauty, mixed with awe for our planet. A planet that loves to share the most romantic sunsets around the world.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Exmouth Australia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Cairo-Giza Egypt

    As we celebrate this annual week of love I thought what could be more romantic than watching a sunset on Valentine’s Day?  Or how about on any day?  Watching a sunset with the one you love.

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Nile River Egypt

    Our travels have presented many sunset opportunities to us, some better than others, but many very memorable.  So in honor of

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Praslin Seychelles

    Valentines week, I give you our most romantic sunsets around the world – memorable moments of the Grand Adventure.

    Note – double-click on any photo in this blog for a larger view

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Seabeck Washington USA

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Etosha National Park Namibia

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Mekong River Laos

    Most romantic sunsets around the world

    Sydney Austalia

    Wishing you and all those you love a Happy Valentines Day! I love you all!

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

    Like the author, I am often intrigued to learn the backstory and family history of people who kill. Why do they kill and what skeletons in their closet could possibly cause such violence. Fowler creates a remarkable novel of both facts and fiction about the family of the infamous John Wilkes Booth. Here is my book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

    The Booth Family

    You are half way through this novel before John Wilkes Booth is even born. Though he will be a character in this book, the real story is much, much broader. Fowler looks at the instability of patriarch Junious Brutus Booth, the sad and sorrowful life of Mary his wife and their ten children.

    The story, though told from the view point of most of the individual family members, is notably narrated by eldest sister of Wilkes, Rosemary or Rose. Surprisingly, Fowler has the least amount of information to draw from in history about Rose. So most of the details about her invalid and spinster life is fictional. But as the eldest sister, she makes a perfect guide to chronicle her unique and tragic family.

    Family Ties

    If John Wilkes Booth was crazy, he came by it through his mercurial father. The siblings often in competition, both feared and loved their father, who was absent for long periods due to his life as a Shakespearean actor. Three of the brothers; Junius, Edwin and John would all become actors with Edwin being considered one of the premier actors of the era.

    The trials and tribulations of this family make a great story, long before anyone shoots Lincoln. Extreme poverty to wealth and prosperity are combined with unfathomable loss of of children and property, alcoholism and rivalry, illegitimate accusations, polygamy, egos and family love and regret. It’s all there to taunt the remaining family after Wilkes pulls the trigger.

    This is a fantastic novel about characters lost in history due to the vitriol that surrounds the most famous of them. Thank you for reading my book review Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

    *****Five stars for Booth by Karen Joy Fowler.

    Read last week’s book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks

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    Food & Drink  --  Inspire

    My Favorite Coffee Around the World

    Coffee Drinkers of the World!

    Location: Around the World

    This is one of our favorite blog posts from 2020. Enjoy it again or for the very first time.

    Lucky am I that I have tasted coffee all over the world, in fact, in 110 countries. Wow that is a lot of countries and a lot of coffee. I’ve been able to narrow down my favorite coffee around the world. I do love coffee and although there has been many countries where the coffee was downright lousy or non-existent, luckily there have been many countries where it was delicious and abundant.

    Enjoying Cyprus coffee

    Cyprus

    We are currently hunkered down on the island of Cyprus, where coffee rules. Cypriot coffee is much like the coffee of Turkey or Greece, and is usually made in a Cezva, a metal cooker with a long handle and a pouring lip. The coffee in Cyprus is arabica coffee and is ground so fine it is almost like a powder. Traditionally cooked in sand over an open fire, many traditional houses will still make the coffee in a machine that uses sand very hot, then place the Cezva into the sand and bring the coffee to boil twice.

    I had never seen coffee made in this manner and it was something fun and new to see.

    Brewing over the hot sand

    Cyprus is another of a long list of countries who know how to make good coffee, even though they don’t grow their own beans. Many countries with the best coffee don’t grow beans. It’s all in the way it’s prepared.

    So I thought today I would share with you all my favorite coffee around the world, in addition to Cyprus. Some of the worlds best and most delicious. Whatever you call it; java, joe, mud, cuppa, brew, cafe, octane, rocket fuel or juice – here is my favorite coffee around the world.

    Coffee in France
    Espresso in France 2007

    France

    I visited France in 2007 and despite the Starbucks phenom in the USA, France was the place I had my first and most memorable cup of real good espresso. And I didn’t have just one. I drank so many cups of espresso during my ten day visit to Paris and northern France. I learned how much I love a deep, dark rich cup and I have loved it ever since.

    Italian coffee
    My husband enjoying coffee in Italy

    Italy

    Most people think of espresso as Italian, and certainly they are credited with the invention of the espresso machine. I loved this amazing coffee here as well, and was a bit confused by the social etiquette surrounding your morning coffee. Most baristas were kind and assisted this silly American.

    Ethiopian coffee
    Ethiopian woman preparing the coffee

    Ethiopia

    My 2008 trip to Ethiopia remains one of the highlights of my travel life, and learning the complicated process the Ethiopia Coffee ceremony encompasses is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen. Ethiopians strongly claim their country as the birthplace of coffee, and they take the ceremony of coffee very seriously. You can’t be in a hurry for your morning cuppa here…but it is very much worth the wait.

    Zanzibar Coffee

    Zanzibar

    The beautiful island country of Zanzibar (actually a self-governing island of Tanzania) has many coffee plantations as well as beautiful and interesting spice plantations. On a tour of one of these plantations we learned a lot about the coffee culture of Zanzibar and enjoyed drinking the rich dark brew at Zanzibar Coffee next to our hotel.

    Moroccan Coffee
    Coffee at Rick’s Cafe in Casablanca

    Morocco

    There are so many things I love about Morocco, including the food, and the coffee is high up on that list of favorite things. We drank it in all parts of the country and it was rich and delicious no matter where we were. Moroccans could be found drinking it morning and night, but for me I had to stick to the morning, or I would have been awake all night long.

    Greek Coffee
    Coffee in Greece

    Greece

    Another country that really knows how to do coffee is Greece. Like other European countries coffee often comes with a “biscuit” for dipping, and a cup of beautiful dark coffee in the afternoon was my favorite mid-day treat.

    Breakfast in Qatar

    Qatar

    This photo does not do justice to the coffee we had in Qatar. We transited through Qatar and spent only one night, and enjoyed on the morning of our departure what I can say is hands down the best breakfast I have ever eaten…including a pot of delicious brewed dark coffee.

    Vietnam Coffee
    Almost always served in a glass cup in Vietnam

    Vietnam

    We spent a month in Vietnam and really grew to love the coffee there. Often served with sweet milk, but you could order it without, the local coffee was almost always served in a clear glass cup without a handle.

    Guatemalan Coffee
    Coffee in Guatemala

    Guatemala

    When we returned home after our month in Guatemala we brought with us six pounds of coffee…now one of my favorite coffee around the world. The production of coffee is big in many Central American countries, but of all the countries we visited we liked Guatemalan coffee the best.

    Vietnam Coffee
    A special latte made to look like me in Vietnam

    So there you have it, my favorite coffee around the world. I can’t wait to continue my coffee culture research when we can start traveling again and continue our ’round the world travel. Coffee makes me happy!

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    Check out My Favorite Cooking Classes Around the World here.

    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Horse by Geraldine Brooks

    Yes this book is about a horse. In fact a real historical horse. But it is about so very much more. At the heart of this book, it is a story about racism in America past and present. I really loved it. Here is my book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

    Personally I am not a horse person, and the horse portrayed in this book called Lexington is not an animal I was familiar with. But if you are a horse person you might be aware of the historical lineage of Lexington. That in itself was a fascinating part of this book, but not the most fascinating to me.

    This beautiful novel follows three different storylines all connected to the Horse. First we meet Jarret in 1850 Kentucky. A Negro slave who becomes the groom to a bay foal. This relationship will form the base of the novel and follow Lexington and Jarrett and their owners through record-setting races, unimaginable profits and into the US Civil War.

    Next we meet Martha Jackson a New York City art gallery owner whose mother was an accomplished equestrian but died after a mishap on a horse. Martha becomes enamored with a painting that seems so familiar and yet how could it be?

    Finally, Washington DC 2019. Pre-pandemic and we meet Nigerian born Theo an art historian and Jess an Australian born scientist at the Smithsonian. Jess and Theo are unexpectedly thrown together when Theo finds a piece of artwork in a rubbish pile.

    I really enjoyed Brooks’ ability to connect multiple story lines to Horse – Lexington – both through amazing historical research as well as brilliant fictional development to build the plot. Throughout the book you will find both real life historical figures entwined with fictional ones, both human and equine.

    Using a thoroughbred horse to teach us lessons in racism is a brilliant play by Geraldine Brooks. I loved it. And learned a lot. Thank you for reading my book review Horse by Geraldine Brooks.

    *****Five stars for Horse by Geraldine Brooks

    Read last week’s book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers here https://myfabfiftieslife.com/book-review-bewilderment-by-richard-powers/

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    Inspire

    Capsule Wardrobe for Three Week Trip

    Carry On Luggage Only for Three Weeks

    Airline travel is stressful these days. Lost luggage, canceled flights, delays. It’s a tough time in the travel industry. Up until this year, our six years of the Grand Adventure has been relatively stress free with limited luggage or flight issues, six years and 161 flights, we only lost luggage twice (see last week’s blog about this Around the World Nine Times Lost Luggage Twice). But it’s a different beast now, and so I’ve put together a capsule wardrobe for three week trip we are embarking on.

    Travel is hard (Canva)

    We booked this trip last spring, before so much airline trouble began. I’m hopeful we might be past the worst of the summer travel nightmare, but still am not going to take a chance checking my bags. This trip is tight between flights, and I have enough to worry about with connections and potential cancellations I don’t want to worry about luggage too. So for the first time I am doing carry on only, so needed a capsule wardrobe for three week trip.

    Although I consider myself a really good packer, when we go for months at a time I never do carry on only because I need to bring so many things like months worth of contact lenses, or months worth of prescription meds. I also carry our French press, the mug, laundry supplies, first aid and toiletries for extended travel.

    Carry on to avoid loosing luggage (canva)

    All that said it’s time to tighten up the bags, and this trip, just under three weeks, gives me a good opportunity to give it a try with a capsule wardrobe for three week trip. I’ve learned a lot from my friend Katherine who writes a blog called The 5kilo Traveller. Her information and instagram posts are helpful and inspirational. Check her out on Instagram and her blog here.

    What is a Capsule Wardrobe

    With just a little bit of planning, it was easy to pull together a capsule wardrobe for travel from my pieces I already have. A capsule wardrobe is a small wardrobe with multiple pieces that you can mix and match and layer and use in various ways. A capsule wardrobe starts with a simple color pallet. I chose black and white for my pants. Then added in pieces that I can mix and match.

    Capsule Wardrobe (Canva)

    Of course your capsule wardrobe will vary depending on your travel destination and the weather. But you should be able to bring the same number of items for five days as you might for five weeks. It’s all in the planning.

    My Trip

    I’m headed to the English Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, followed by a few days in France. Then I return to the USA via Boston and head immediately to Acadia National Park in Maine for five days of camping. So my capsule wardrobe needs to consist of comfortable and versatile clothes for fall weather that could be in the 70’s or the 40’s, sunshine or rain, as well as both city strolling or rugged hiking.

    Guernsey (Canva)

    Layers on the Plane

    It’s rare you get blankets on the plane anymore so I like to have a coat handy to use as a blanket. This is my airplane outfit in this photo. It consists of layers that should keep me comfortable no matter the temperature of the plane…and you never know what that will be. Also by layering I’m able to wear several items instead of squeezing them into my bag.

    Airplane layers in Capsule Wardrobe colors

    My airplane outfit is a tshirt, long sleeve cotton button up blouse and a cotton long sleeve sweatshirt paired with black leggings and my running shoes. The leggins will be handy for the camping portion of our trip and will likely serve as pajamas while camping too.

    Black and White

    Black and White bottoms with mix and match tops for various weather and activities

    I am packing one pair of black slacks, one pair of white slacks and one pair of black shorts. These staple bottoms will carry me through most days. To mix and match with these three bottoms (and also the leggings) I have another short sleeve tshirt in a bright pink, one yellow tank top, one blue linen lightweight blouse, one blue linen long sleeve blouse, a sweater set (polka dot and black) and a black and white pullover cotton sweater. These all mix and match with the airplane outfit items.

    Dresses

    Just in case dresses, easy to pack and care for and easy to layer too

    If we get fine weather in the Channel Island and France I have packed two cotton dresses. My green TravelSmith dress has been a workhorse in my travel wardrobe for years. And this orange cotton dress I added this year from Talbots. I can layer both of these with the black sweater or checked blouse. I’ve thrown in one scarf.

    Camping

    For Camping and Hiking

    In addition to the leggings and the tshirts already mentioned I have packed my long hiking pants, my hiking shorts, my short sleeve hiking shirt, a long sleeve tshirt and a lightweight quick dry hiking sweatshirt. Camping could be wet, my Gortex jacket with hood will serve for both rain and warmth.

    Shoes

    Just two this time

    It’s always hard for me not to bring too many shoes, so the fact that I’ve decided to only bring two pairs is kind of amazing. I am wearing my black running shoes on the plane and though I don’t plan to run during this trip, these shoes can be walking and hiking shoes as well. In addition I am bringing my new white leather sneakers from Soludos. These work with everything including dresses.

    And Everything Else

    Additional essentials.

    Beyond my wardrobe I will be bringing underwear, first aid, one towel, a paired down toiletries bag, travel alarm and a small travel umbrella. We also have purchased two collapsible water bottles and we will try those out for the first time as well as a new collapsible hot water heater. I’m curious to see how I like that. I always carry my laptop, kindle, cords and chargers too. I have a new over the shoulder travel purse for my documents, passport, cash and credit cards as well as a few essentials for the airplane like my noise canceling headphones, lip balm, Tylenol and tiny toothbrush and toothpaste for the plane.

    And one more thing – if you aren’t using packing cubes go buy some now! Game changer.

    And That’s It

    So that is my capsule wardrobe for three week trip. I feel good about my choices. It won’t surprise me if I end up not using something, but that said I still don’t think I have over packed. It’s actually a fun challenge for me. If it goes well, we will see if I can compress when we leave for seven months in October.

    Be sure to check with YOUR airline as there are some differences as far as carry on size allowed. A little planning and you should be good to go.

    Thanks for reading my post Capsule Wardrobe Three Week Trip. Be sure to see last week’s post about our data from six years of world travel and airports and airlines around the world Nine Times Around the World Only Lost Luggage Twice.

    See this week’s top performing pin here Coastal Grandma Does That Make Me Cool?

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    Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Bewilderment by Richard Powers

    My first time reading Pulitzer Prize winning author Richard Powers. His latest novel was definitely bewildering. Here is my book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers.

    Astrobiologist Theo is raising his unusual son Robin alone, after the somewhat mysterious death of his activist and biologist wife. The near future world they inhabit is a complex planet suffering from devastating climate change, ecological demise, and a tyrannical and egotistical President. Hmmm. Where have we heard this before?

    Robin is a troubled but talented boy, trying to understand the death of his mother, while worrying incessantly about the expiring planet. Theo decides to enroll Robin in an experimental treatment to help the angry child. The treatment is neurofeedback using corded memory patterns from his dead mother.

    The treatment turns Robin around, and in fact brings out his artistic and intellectual genius. Until the spiraling world means budget cuts and Robin no longer can receive the treatment. The boy begins to slip.

    This story has multiple themes of love and commitment, both to family and the planet and how choices and ignorance can kill not just the earth, but families, futures and everything we take for granted.

    It was truly bewildering. Thanks for reading my book review Bewilderment by Richard Powers.

    See last week’s book review French Braid by Anne Tyler.

    ****Four stars for Bewilderment.

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